I'm building a Lawful Neutral cleric of Abadar, and picture her channeling negative energy as "Abadar's rebuke of the unjust". In my case, she'll use the Rulership variant channeling rules, cutting the damage in half but dazing any who fail a save for one round, which has the further flavor of dazing them as they feel the Judge of the Gods' disapproving gaze.

The flavor of how I'm thinking of it -- and the source of the effect -- are Lawful Neutral, not Evil...but I wanted to double check, at least rules-as-written, are all negative energy effects evil?

(Negative energy sure sounds, well, "negative"...but can it just be a tool like a sword that needs to be exercised wisely? Or is it evil in some intrinsic way, in the game world (which I suppose is at least implied by the fact that Good clerics and Good gods don't do it?))

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    \$\begingroup\$ This has come up recently in my game. We all agree that it's not evil, but some characters may think it is. \$\endgroup\$
    – C. Ross
    Mar 8, 2014 at 15:15
  • \$\begingroup\$ By way of comparison, D&D 3.5 in Special Attacks on Turn or Rebuke Undead on Neutral Clerics and Undead says, "Even if a cleric is neutral, channeling positive energy is a good act and channeling negative energy is evil" (Player's Handbook 160). \$\endgroup\$ Jul 23, 2015 at 21:10

3 Answers 3


Channeling negative energy isn't an Evil action by default the way some other powers are.

Negative energy is the power of death, entropy, &c. In D&D3 and Pathfinder, it's often associated with baddies like evil clerics or the undead, but it isn't automatically straight-up capital-E Evil.

For example, check the Harm spell, which is, like, the purest version of "channel some negative energy to hurt someone."

School: necromancy

No Evil tag. That means that, in Pathfinder Alignment Land, using negative energy doesn't require committing Evil deeds or calling on Evil powers. (Compare to spells that straight-up do use the power of Evil, like Blasphemy and Blood Transcription.) Whether or not your negative-energy-related shenanigans are evil is driven by the ends, not the means.

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    \$\begingroup\$ Best to restrict this answer to Pathfinder as, in 3.5, channeling positive energy is good, and channeling negative energy is evil: "Even if a cleric is neutral, channeling positive energy is a good act and channeling negative energy is evil" (PH 160). \$\endgroup\$ Sep 27, 2018 at 15:58

Negative Energy spells and Evil spells are not necessarily the same. Spells are not Evil unless they're tagged with the Evil descriptor as Alex P mentioned, and those are the spells you cannot cast due to alignment. If a negative energy spell lacks the Evil descriptor, casting it isn't Evil.

The way I look at it is that the pos/neg energy spells are a piece of equipment that you use. Your character can use positive energy to heal a friend or negative energy to harm an enemy. (Opposite if the friend/enemy has negative energy affinity.) In the same way, a fighter can use a bandage to help a friend or his sword to harm an enemy.

Also keep in mind, that living evil characters need to be healed too. So they could use the channel positive energy spell to heal themselves but that would not make them Good.

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    \$\begingroup\$ This would be a great answer if the OP was asking only about spells. However, they're also asking about the Channel Energy supernatural ability. If you expand this answer to cover supernatural abilities that use negative energy as well as spells, it'd be better than it currently is. \$\endgroup\$
    – GMJoe
    Apr 8, 2014 at 4:15

Negative Energy channeling can be provided by either Evil or Neutral deities. Therefore, it is not inherently non-neutral. In the same way, Neutral deities can also provide access to Positive Energy channeling. If anything, this reinforces that Positive or Negative Energy are inherently Neutral, and that only particular uses of the energy might be aligned otherwise.

Likewise, there are spells that produce aligned Energy (such as Cure and Inflict spells) - these spells do not have a Good or Evil descriptor, meaning they are not observably either Evil or Good.

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    \$\begingroup\$ -1: Spells with the Evil descriptor are explicitly inherently evil, and can be provided by Neutral deities. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 9, 2014 at 2:10
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    \$\begingroup\$ I think he means negative energy itself isn't inherently evil, but I do think this answer could get closer to the issue: there are non-evil spells provided which have negative energy channeling, and neutral deities provide them (apparently?), therefore there's clearly nothing inherently evil about it. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 9, 2014 at 2:24
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    \$\begingroup\$ A neutral entity doing something doesn't make it not an evil act, either, Yogo. Alignment is descriptive, not prescriptive, and an entity's alignment (even a deity's) describes its general behavioural trends, not necessarily every single act it ever commits. Not only neutral, but even Good deities grant spells like Inflict Light Wounds, but that doesn't make it a Good act to channel negative energy, either; casting that spell to kill a random commoner walking down the street is certainly an Evil act. This does not actually establish them as Neutral either, though it does at least imply such. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 9, 2014 at 6:18
  • \$\begingroup\$ @MatthewNajmon please don't argue in comments. This seems like the start of a very adequate answer. \$\endgroup\$ Apr 10, 2014 at 12:36

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